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KU Has Spent More Than $3 Million Defending Itself Against NCAA Violations

Charlie Riedel
Associated Press
KU Athletics continues to spend thousands of dollars a month on outside legal firms while waiting for a decision from the NCAA on serious accusations leveled by the NCAA

In the three years since serious NCAA allegations surfaced against the University of Kansas basketball program, the Athletics Department has spent more than $3.5 million on four law firms.

With the meter still running, Kansas Athletics has spent more than $3.5 million defending itself against alleged NCAA rules violations in both basketball and football.

In just the last year, KU Athletics has spent more than $2.4 million dollars with four law firms. That is more than twice what KU spent on lawyers in 2018 and 2019 as the NCAA investigation ramped up.

Among the NCAA charges is that KU head coach Bill Self and his assistant, Kurtis Townsend, “embraced, welcomed and encouraged” Adidas employees and consultants to influence high-profile basketball recruits to sign with the Jayhawks. This is what the NCAA calls Level I violations, a charge of head coach responsibility, and of lack of institutional control.

KU is among several universities spending millions to defend against NCAA violations.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, KU paid out $2,441,096, according to legal bills obtained through the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA).

KU has also added two law firms to its defense team. Kansas City-based law firm Husch Blackwell billed a modest $6,188 between December 2020 and February of this year.

But KU also added powerhouse international firm Hogan Lovells. The Jayhawk case is being run out of its Philadelphia office and since coming on board in August 2020, KU has paid the firm $862,256 through February, according to legal bills.

The firm refused to talk to KCUR, but on its website touted its representation of a “renowned state university in NCAA disciplinary proceeding before the newly established Independent Accountability Review Process.”

The IARP is a new enforcement process and consists of a five-person independent resolution panel that will make the decision about violations. Once penalties are handed down, they cannot be appealed.

Following inquiries about the KU case, the blurb disappeared from Hogan Lovells' website.

Five major NCAA basketball programs have cases before the IARP.

The two firms who have represented KU since the start of the enforcement actions also cashed in during the last year.

Overland Park firm Bond, Schoeneck & King bill KU $818,686 between May 2020 and April 2021, legal bills show. Since December 2017, KU Athletics has paid the firm almost $1.6 million for work around the alleged basketball and football violations.

The other national law firm engaged by KU, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, billed KU $753,985 between April 2020 and February of this year. Since Pillsbury came on board in August 2019, it has cost KU almost $1.2 million.

KU is still waiting to hear what the IARP decided but has denied all allegations.

The athletics department did not immediately respond to KCUR seeking comment on this story. But in the past said that “legal fees are an expected and necessary cost of doing business for a major athletics department.”

KCUR previously reported that KU Athletics spent $352,553 defending a federal lawsuit brought by former football coach David Beaty. KU eventually settled out of court with Beaty for $2.55 million.

KU is not alone in spending lots of money defending against NCAA violations.

The University of Arizona spent $1.4 million in 2018 when an assistant basketball coach was arrested on charges of bribery and fraud, according to the Arizona Republic.

Emanuel “Book” Richardson was arrested as part of an FBI investigation into corruption at major basketball schools.

The NCAA itself has also increased spending on outside law firms.

It has paid more than twice as much in legal fees than it did in it did in 2015, according to Inside Higher Ed.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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